Julianne’s Blog

this is my blog. this is the only blog there will be.

Parisian Pachyderms and Shiny Pants 12 June 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 12:52 AM
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Since my visit last week to Paris, I’ve come down with a sinus infection. The same thing happened the last time I visited Paris, leading Jason to shrug and mutter “Paris syndrom,” as if that’s what I get for leaving the village. That’s basically the opinion of all the villagers (myself included), but luckily it’s not too bad. Gigi happened to have a pile of antibiotics to share, and the old lady Jeanine down the street (by the way, there’s only one street in Le Vignaud) gave me some tablets that she says will make anything feel a little better, and also help me sleep. Self-medication is always more fun when it’s done in a foreign language.

Some family members have been concerned about my future. About how I will Be An Adult. Honestly I’m not too worried about it, but to show that I am at least giving it some thought I have come up with a goal I’d like to accomplish by the time I’m 30. This was inspired by a dream induced by Jeanine’s mysterious meds. And, all my dear aged relatives, by the time I’m 30, in those eight years, I will ride an elephant. Don’t know where, under what circumstances, but that is my goal for adulthood.

The last time I rode an elephant was when I was about 4. I remember we were visiting my mom’s father, probably in New York, and while most of my memories are actually from photographs and I don’t recall what my dress looked like I remember how the dress felt. And I know that on that day I also rode an elephant.

Back to the business at hand, everyone will rejoice in the knowledge that I finally got new pants, and these are good ones. Incidentally, almost the same as Gigi’s pants. They’re fuscia sateen and when I skipped out to the bread truck this morning for my croissants the elderly neighbors didn’t much know what to say, although the various chickens milling about in the street were attracted.  I’m sure they just chalked it up to the eccentricities of Americans. The old man across the street was feeling pretty chatty (or should I say the hue of my pants whipped him into a conversational frenzy), but the morning air’s sociability was thwarted by my utter inability to understand a sigle word he said. I felt like talking, but I didn’t feel like doing it in French. My brain just was not going that way; I guess I was too distracted by the bag of croissants I held and the baguette I’d stuck under my arm.

And speaking of Americans, Izzy just re-arrived in Le Vignaud, so now we are three. Gigi has gone up to England for a few days so I am holding down the Gueret fort, making sure her apartment maintains that nice lived-in atmosphere. It’s been too cold and rainy for bathing in the lake, so I’ve made good use of Gigi’s shower. And her place actually has a roof, so there’s no dirt blowing in or rain dripping down from that giant hole above the attic. So with my new pants and my clean feet, I’m starting to feel like a city girl again, the city of Gueret (which is funny for those who have seen Gueret; it’s like Metairie but it’s my metropolis). We’ll just see how the pants match the backpack.


Flunching in France 7 June 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 8:21 PM
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I think I’ve fallen a little behind on what’s been going on lately. Some of those events will not be posted, but some of them are appropriate for my grandparents to read about.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

After spending a couple days in Innsbruck I headed east to Bern, Switzerland. Nice city, but so expensive. I spent the next day in Interlaken at the country’s oldest hostel, which also happens to be the partiest place I’ve stayed so far. And I did my fair share of participation in that partying, spending the next day hung over in a hammock.

With some time to kill before heading back to France and some blank slots on my railpass, I shot over to Amsterdam for a day. It was great going back to that first city, to my first hostel, after five months of wandering. I felt triumphant and was amazed at how different the city felt in the spring. I was also surprised that I had no trouble finding my way around, and even when I wandered aimlessly my feet instinctively lead me back to familiar places.  A guy who worked at the hostel remembered me from before. In a small sense it felt like going home.

Even better was the return to France. Before, Jason and I had been staying at his friend’s house while he worked on the one he was buying, but this time we were actually staying in Chateau Le Vignaud. Part of the roof was missing, and there was neither electricity nor plumbing, but it felt so good to be there. My first morning we went down to the lake and I took a bath while Jason washed clothes, filling a basin with lake water and soap and stomping on our clothes like he was making wine. I have to say, I’ve never seen his socks so clean. I got to spend some quality girl time with Gigi, in which we cut each other’s hair and gave ourselves pedicures.

Gigi and Jason grilling pizza

Gigi and Jason grilling pizza

Well, I’m going to have to really gloss over this part and hopefully fill in some details later, but then I went to Paris for a week where I met my dad, on vacation with his wife, her brother, and his wife. I think we all had a pretty good time and it was definitely nice to see my dad relax for a few days.

We all had a picnic under the Eiffel Tower

We all had a picnic under the Eiffel Tower

Now I’m back in Gueret with Jason, Gigi, and our British mate Dirty Darren. Last night Jason hit his head on a brick and probably gave himself a concussion. I had to hold him up and then set him down in a chair, and clean up the blood on his face. But it was getting dark, and there’s no phone, and I can’t drive his standard car, and I didn’t know what to do. I know when you have a concussion you’re not supposed to sleep, but I didn’t know what else to do with him besides help him upstairs to bed and hope he didn’t die in his sleep.

The next morning he was still alive so we drove over to Gigi‘s house. After I took a shower at her place, Dirty Darren came over and took Gigi and I over to the Giant Labyrinth, supposedly the world’s largest hedge maze. It took us about 45 minutes and a bottle of wine, but the three of us totally showed those Frenchies how it’s done.  Afterwards Gigi and I played a rousing game of giant checkers, shared a crepe and the biggest stick of cotton candy I’ve ever seen in my life, and pet the ponies.

The labyrinth!

The labyrinth!

Girly love in the labyrinth

Girly love in the labyrinth


We needed a break at this point so we went back to her apartment and watched a movie. After 2 hours of a Bollywood movie (there were a couple bottles of wine in there too) we were all hungry, so we let Darren take us over to Flunch.

We’d been hearing about this place from Darren and his parents for months. Flunch is a chain of family-friendly buffet restaurants, and we’re pretty sure it’s an abbreviation of “fucking lunch” as in “I’m eating my fucking lunch!” Just like in the labyrinth, we showed the Frenchies the right way to Flunch.  I’m not sure if we’re welcome back at this particular franchise location, but we all enjoyed our weekend.


The humid air of Marseille feels like home 5 April 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 1:07 PM
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So Izzy just left for Milan after 4 days together in sometimes sunny Marseille. I’m on my own again. But it’s getting warm, and I even left my coat from Cesky Krumlov at the train station when I dropped her off. It’s strange how sad it is to leave something like that behind…

Well, I’m finally getting back into backpacking. After spending the last 7 weeks in France, tomorrow I’m starting a whirlwind 10 city tour before meeting my dad in Paris at the end of May. This is where my railpass comes in handy. First off is Barcelona, which should be lovely. I’ll be in Italy for the middle of April, and then Greece! Then follows Dubrovnik, Zagreb, maybe Ljubljana, Budapest, Krakow, Prague, and finally Munich. I don’t know how I’m going to handle it, but I am excited. Also getting tired and ready to go home, but then I remember that I don’t have a home anymore. So I guess I’m ready to make a home again.

Yesterday we went to the Callanques on the Mediterranean. Easily the most beautiful land I’ve seen in Europe. The walk took 1.5 hours through rocky mountains covered with wild rosemary. When we finally arrived at the rocky beach (where I ate a blood orange I found on the way) I was so excited to get into that turqoise water, and even though it was so cold my legs were numb it made sunning on the rocks that much better.

The day before we walked around the Vieux Port of Marseille and sat outside a restaurant and ate big pots of mussels. The city is strange, and I can’t help but be uncomfortable walking through some of the ethnic neighborhoods where there are only men on the streets. But still, I like this place and would come back, at least for the beach.

On the way here from Jason’s house I lost my wallet in Limoges, so I’m dealing with that headache. My new wallet is on a rope tied to my pants, but really I need a chain. At least I had another credit card and some cash stored somewhere else, so I’m not stranded. Also having parents looking out for me makes a huge difference!


Smarch 27 March 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 4:29 PM
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It was the 13th hour of the 13th day of the 13th month… It’s SMARCH!

Another month, another blog posting. I’m never online for more than a few minutes, just enough to check emails and never long enough to post anything. But today is my birthday so we’ve taken the day off of work (also because it’s raining) so I am able to go to the library in little town Bonnat to use the computer. Also we are doing laundry! I’ve been wearing my hoodie for at least 23 hours a day, every day since the last time it was washed in January. And it’s kinda gross. But I’m cold without it, which is why it hasn’t been cleaned in 2 months.

I’m still in France with Jason working on his house. We’ve been replacing a section of his roof. It involved putting up new beams and all new woodwork, although I didn’t really participate in that project. I was scrubbing the mold off the terracotta tiles that we are now putting back up on the roof. It’s slow and boring, but its almost done. Then there’s just the other 3 sections of roof, and putting in floors, and getting electricity and plumbing, and making walls, and you know, it’s almost done. Uh huh.

This morning (really closer to noon) Jason made crepes with lemon juice and plenty of vanilla sugar, just how I like them. We’re going to make an apple pie this evening, although our official pie maker Clint went back to Chicago after his stint in Le Vignaud. Also there will be a pizza with homemade crust (finally those years working at Papa John’s are paying off) with my new favorite topping: capers. Really quite delicious. At the farmers’ market in the bigger town Gueret there is a vendor who sells olives and sundried tomatoes and capers, and we always make a purchase from him, although these capers were actually bought from the grocery store. Maybe I will even pick up a coke to go with my birthday dinner, but let’s not be too extravagant.

At the farmers’ market last week we wound up meeting a coupe from Minnesota who are living here for a year while the girl Gigi teaches English in the school system, so last night we went to their apartment in Gueret for drinks. Jason and I brought wine and they bought a bottle of champagne for my birthday, and we had a really fun and very late evening. It was good to hang out with some other Americans.

When I was in Paris 3 weeks ago I bought a vintage duvet cover with a really cool flower print on it. Many hours of hand sewing later, I’ve turned it into a great little sundress that I certainly can’t wear in this weather. I bought elastic at the Saturday market in Gueret, 6m for €1,50– a bargain and a great experience buying sewing notions from an open air stall in the middle of the French countryside. But I don’t have any shoes that go with a dress at all, just my hiking boots and my Converse sneakers. Also I wound up getting a new iPod when my old one inexplicably broke after I dropped it on the floor ($180 from ebay UK, 6 Gen and it’s sooooo cool) and I made an awesome case for it out of some vintage French comics Jason found in the attic. He was so jealous of my case that I had to make him one too. My mom sent me an extra pair of glasses I had, which somehow ended up being painted white. The paint’s not dry yet though, so I can’t say how they’ve turned out. I had seen some white frames in an optometrist’s office in Amsterdam, so I consider this a belated souvenir of my first stop in Europe. So even though I’ve got no supplies, workspace, or storage room, I’m still as productive as ever. Lorraine’s dad Will once said I had making disease, and I guess I still haven’t recovered.

So on Monday I am packing my bag again and heading to Marseille for some more girl time with Izzy. This is the best international slumber party ever, and it doesn’t stop. It will be so good to have some warmer weather, and I’m really looking forward to updating my wardrobe! I’ve been wearing the same 2 shirts for about 4 months and it’s getting boring. After that I suppose I’ll backtrack west to Spain, and then make a big loop through Italy, Croatia, Prague again, Krakow, Germany, and then back in Paris at the end of May to meet my dad for a few days. After that some UNO people are going to be in Venice for the Biennale, so why not me? And then it’s just another month until my flight back to good old USA.

And then… I want to buy a car, probably a station wagon, big enough for me to put a mattress in and drive down to NOLA, then west to the Pacific Ocean with whatever drifting friends I can dig up making a pit stop in the middle of the Nevada desert in the beginning of September for Burning Man, and after that I’ve got nothing.

Some other things: I’d bought some underwear in Prague in January, and I just realized the other day that the tag on the inside is in 20 different languages. Also my mom sent me a pack of Peeps (but Jason says since they’re bunnies they should be called Flops) that I roasted for s’mores, made with some delightful French cookies called ecoliers, butter biscuits with slabs of chocolate on them (thanks mom). Also on the subject of biscuits, I finally found a perfect biscuit recipe after many unsuccessful attempts.

Funnily enough, I should have more regular internet access when I’m on the move again, so hopefully the next few weeks will see more postings.

Also happy late birthday to Unkie Rick and happy anniversary to Michael and Kami (4 years, right?), who I love very much and miss all the time, along with everyone else.


All of February in under 986 words (not counting the title) 2 March 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 5:17 PM
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So much has happened in the last few weeks. I’ve been too busy and having too much fun to be spending all day online! But mostly, I haven’t had internet access for more than a few minutes. So now where to begin?

Izzy and I convinced Jason to drive to visit us in Prague. One morning I went out to pick something up, and when I turned around the corner onto Izzy’s street there he was. We all spent a week together in Prague, doing a little bit of sightseeing, but mostly hanging out. One night we went to a bar that was actually an old train car, called the Vagon. It was strange, but the cheapest whiskey I found in Prague, and they served fried cheese (a staple of vegetarian dining in the Czech Republic).

Then Jason and I piled into his Renault truck and headed south on the small roads we found on the map. Southern Czech Republic was covered in snow, and at one point the truck skidded off the road and got stuck in a snow bank/ditch. Luckily two cars of Czechs stopped, and with the help of a big van we were able to pull and push the truck back onto the road.

Eventually we got to Vienna. We found a place to park and crawled into the back of the truck, where there was a futon mattress and two down blankets waiting for us. In the morning we went to a gas station to brush our teeth, and then hopped on the tram into the city center. It wasn’t really any colder than Amsterdam, but at least in Amsterdam I was staying in heated places where I could take a hot shower and had lights. Also, our first day in Vienna it was raining, which eventually turned into snow. The weather made the city kind of miserable. Although it was south of Prague, Austria is Alp country, so the elevation is higher. I hadn’t thought of that.

So why did we go to Vienna? Well, Vienna was the center of the Secessionist movement, whose most famous member was Gustav Klimt. I just finished my thesis 3 months ago, so I had to go and stand in front of the paintings I had been researching for months. This was the pinnacle of the 5 years I spent studying art history. I went to the Secessionist building, which was an independent gallery space for the members. Klimt has a long frieze in the basement (it was originally in the main hall, but was meant to be only temporary) and got the see the entire thing at once, not broken up into images. And then… I went into the bathroom and washed my hair. I’m pretty sure I am one of the only people in the world who has washed their hair in the Secessionist building. Of course I froze when I stepped outside, with my wet head, but I feel like I made my mark.

After two very difficult days in Vienna, we started heading west to France. We drove on the small roads and passed through so many little villages. We saw an amazing Baroque monastery in Melk, and were afterwards completely enveloped in a crazy sudden snow storm. We drove through Linz, which was Hitler’s favorite town. We detoured south to St. Gilgen and Halstaat, which was amazingly beautiful, even under 2 feet of snow! In St. Gilgen, where we spent the night, I ate a giant Austrian cinnamon roll that had me singing and skipping for the rest of the morning. We stopped in Salzburg for pizza, home of The Sound of Music, but we couldn’t really stay. Austria was too cold. We took the Autobahn through Germany, and by the next night we rolled into Bonnat, France.

Jason’s house is actually in Le Vignaud, but while he’s working on it he is staying a friend’s second home in the nearby village of Bonnat. This house doesn’t have heating, but it does have plumbing and electricity, which is nice at night. We spend all day in Le Vignaud working, about 7 hours a day. The most work we’ve done is in the yard. There were massive piles of vines, branches, and thorns that needed to be burned. The house had been uninhabited for 50 years before Jason moved in, and the front yard has been used as a dump. We’ve pulled out tons of broken glass, plastic bottles, a wide collection of whole bottles (some match), endless rusted metal, several shoes, and at one point there was a door with wood veneer (which does not decompose) and old metal fixtures. There was a bit of detective work on that one. We also dug up a hibernating toad the other day, with bright red eyes, and watched it wake up to the spring. Despite all the trash in the yard, there are also some beautiful white wildflowers that keep the honey bees busy all day.

A week of hard work and the yard is almost finished. I’ve been using a pick axe to break up the dirt, which also pulls up the rocks and exposes more garbage to be collected. We’ve leveled out the yard, removed some old trees and nasty vines, and have done some extensive building of stone walls. The transformation is really amazing, and in March it will be time to plant the clover and wildflower seeds we got instead of grass.

But for the next week I’m going up to Paris, about 4 hours by train, to meet a friend I met in Amsterdam. I’m excited to get another change, to let my muscles relax for a week, go out at night, to sleep in a heated room, and to be clean. I might even wear mascara! I think somewhere under this dirt and the layers of the same 4 shirts I’ve been wearing for 3 months I’m a girl, but I can’t be sure anymore.


Oh, also in France 18 January 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 4:34 PM
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Since tomorrow is Monday I’m going to cook redbeans and rice for the family I’m with and some neighbors. Also I’m going to make biscuits from scratch. The house is heated by a fireplace, so I’d really like to have s’mores for dessert! But I’m not sure I can find graham crackers.

More importantly: today I saw Walker Texas Ranger on TV. Dubbed. In French. Chuck Norris à francais?! What does this mean?! I also watched La Petite Maison en la Prarie, but that wasn’t nearly as disturbing.


This week in France

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 1:38 PM
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Well, nothing happening. The other day I was working on the art nouveau project and the people here starting pulling me and telling me to come. I asked where and they said ‘à les vaches’ which means to the cows, and it turns out that’s not a figure of speach. We went to a dairy and got milk out of a cow, which was then made into a cake (of course it was delicious).

Also the other day we had liver for dinner. This was the first time I’d eaten it, and I have to say that I found it quite repulsive. I’ve eaten so many new and delicious meals since I’ve been gone that I probably wouldn’t have tried at home, but this was the first time I just couldn’t do it. I had some fried eggs instead. Fried eggs always remind me of Medora and Ryan, so I had to listen to their CD that night.

And last night we went to a discothéque. It was exactly how I imagined it would be (but I’d always assumed there was something else that wasn’t being explained to me that made those places appealing). Oh yes, it was French hell. If it had a light up floor like Snoopy in Flash Beagle, I would have been all over it. But the mist, strobe lights, and really loud dance music just wasn’t doing it for me. Add to that the most expensive, smallest sized, and absolute worst tasting whiskey I’ve ever had in my life (it was €8 four about 1/4 cup) and I was not impressed by the nightlife in the French countryside. Just not my scene. But Margaret Mead and Martha Ward would be proud. Oh, and I did not dance!

So next week (Tues or Wed) I am going to. My friend Izzy lives there and she is having a slumber party. Yes, I am going across Europe for a slumber party. I need some American girl time. I will return to France later, cause I AM having a good time. I just need a change right now.